In 1583 the Canadian province of Newfoundland became Britain's first possession in North America. By the 17th century Newfoundland had established itself as the centre of the cod-fishing industry. The Newfoundland Assembly was set up in 1832 and although Newfoundland remained part of the British Empire it was granted self-government in 1855.
In August 1914 the Newfoundland Assembly declared war on the Central Powers. This decision was supported by the population of about 250,000 and during the war over 6,500 men served in the Newfoundland Regiment. The men saw action at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, suffering over 2,000 fatalities. On the 1st July, 1916, at the Battle of the Somme, the Newfoundland Regiment lost 600 out of the 800 troops that took part that day.
About 2,000 Newfoundlanders also served in the Royal Navy through the Newfoundland Naval Service and another 500 went to Scotland as a forestry battalion.